We are at the beginning of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and entering a new era of digitization, which is rapidly disrupting how we live, work, and relate to one another. Today’s technologies, including artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), and Cisco’s recently launched new intuitive network are connecting everything and everyone in the physical, digital, and biological spheres.
These interconnected solutions are transforming entire industries, creating new business models and competitors, and doing so at an unprecedented pace; disruption that used to take decades can now happen in a matter of months. Ordering a cab, booking a flight, making a payment, and watching a film all can now be done remotely and quickly, increasing the efficiency and pleasure of our personal lives. Entire industries, including transportation and accommodation, have transformed before our very eyes and businesses in the digital age are constantly reinventing themselves.
This new digital era is transforming technology itself at an incredible pace, and changing the nature of jobs. In tomorrow’s technology landscape, everything will be connected, as well as software-based, automated, and data-generating, meaning everything will need to be secured. Solutions in this era must be constantly learning, constantly adapting, and constantly protecting users and their data.
These solutions require employees with new skills. Research shows that 1.4 million full-time employees, and an additional 300,000 entry-level full-time employees, will be needed to deliver application and business services for the Internet of Things (IoT) by 2020.
While technology-based solutions adapt to this digital era, the demand for skills in new areas like security, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, is increasing. New approaches will be required to develop the volume and uniqueness of skills and competencies required, and this is also changing the future of education. To prepare the talent needed for the digital economy, education must adapt as fast as the demand for IT skills is growing and evolving.
Current education cost models can be prohibitive, which is challenging the whole education system as it’s developed to this point. Changes in the technology landscape mean students need to master new skills and new ways of working. Learning must now be dynamic, multidisciplinary, digital, relevant, and provide hands-on experiences that prepares students for the continuously evolving needs of today’s employers. Today’s students also want to learn at their own pace, and at the time and location of their own choosing, and learning has changed to become more personalized and flexible.
All of these trends combined, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a changing technology landscape, and an evolving education system, is, unfortunately, exacerbating the current mismatch between the skills employees have and the skills companies need. Too many people are unemployed, while employers and CEOs struggle to find the right mix of talent to fill new job profiles that will help them remain competitive and relevant in the digital era.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 7 million people across the country were unemployed in March of 2017, though 5.7 million unfilled jobs were available. Nearly half of U.S. employers can’t find qualified candidates, with many citing a lack of technical skills as a top reason. In the IT industry that number is worse, with 86% of hiring managers challenged to find people with the right skills.
Employers today want workers with hands on experience, and a balance of technical skills, such as coding, software, and networking, as well as non-technical skills, including business understanding, problem-solving, and innovative thinking. With technology changing so rapidly, businesses need employees that know how to deal with change, that collaborate well with others, and those that love to continuously learn.
All of these influences – the Fourth Industrial Revolution, tomorrow’s technology landscape, and the future of education – are driving Cisco to transform both the learning portfolio strategy and platform strategy of the Cisco Networking Academy.
Cisco Networking Academy is a world-leading IT skills and career building program that addresses the growing need for IT talent by equipping students with entry-level IT and 21st-century career skills. The program is based on partnerships with over 9,600 community colleges, universities, governments, and other organizations, implementing the program across 170 countries.
Our global impact includes providing IT education to more than one million students each year, 6.9 million students since 1997. To address the growing skills gap, the Networking Academy curriculum builds a solid digital foundation through courses like Cybersecurity Essentials and Programming Essentials in C++. We constantly develop new courses to keep our curriculum relevant, such as IoT fundamentals, a new three-module course that covers big data and analytics, connecting things and rapid prototyping, all relevant to some of the fastest-growing job areas.
Our learning portfolio strategy, the material we create and teach, has also been updated for the new digital era. While the network is now even more foundational, literacy in coding, security, and data will be essential for all. We’ve broadened our cyber domain to include cloud security, security audit, and digital forensics topics and have introduced automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence literacy to better prepare our students for today’s jobs.
We have also transformed our delivery platform, which is how we teach and deliver the Networking Academy program. Our platform is a next generation Cloudscale architecture with a Devops approach and continuous integration in the environment.
Our platform’s use of big data provides improved analytics and insights that help us optimize both the learning experience of our students, providing formative feedback as they study, as well as providing insights and metrics for our Networking Academy program. In addition, the platform is evolving to support a range of modalities (online, offline, intermittent, low bandwidth) scaling across the globe and interoperating with other Learning Management Systems (LMS).
The future of Networking Academy is anchored in the future of the Cisco Network. Cisco recently unveiled a new era of intent-based networking, The Network Intuitive, which is powered by intent to automate and scale in just minutes, and informed by data and analytical context. The Network Intuitive learns and reacts and is the only network that provides security while maintaining privacy, solving a previously unsolvable dilemma.
The Cisco Networking Academy is developing the skills needed for a new era of technology professionals, working in a connected future, with an intuitive network. Our program continuously introduces new digital skills, adapts to trends in education, and allows individuals to learn anytime, anywhere, together. We are improving learning experiences and outcomes, to develop talent truly capable of transforming businesses and powering the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
 Gartner, 2016: Cisco Digitization/IoT Entry Level Jobs
 US Bureau of Labor Statistics http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm
 Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey Highlights May 2016: http://www.bls.gov/web/jolts/jlt_labstatgraphs.pdf
 2016 Manpower Talent Shortage Survey – http://manpowergroup.com/talent-shortage-2016
 2016 Indeed Technology Talent Survey http://blog.indeed.com/2016/12/05/impact-of-tech-talent-shortage/